Search Vocabulary for Databases

Types of searching and navigation available in electronic databases

Analytical - Combine words and operators to locate information on your topic by entering in a search box. Try a keyword search using MnPALS or Google

Browse - Look through a list to find your topic, similar to the index at the end of a book. Try to browse for a journal title in Project MUSE.

Hierarchical - Look through a list of topics. Start with a broad topic and go to narrower topics. Try Yahoo's Health directory links, click on Long Term Care

Hypertext - Jump from one word or concept to another by clicking on a hyperlinked word. Be aware you may leave the original source completely and/or lose your original search. 

Thesaurus - Set of words created by the database indexers to identify ideas and topics in the database. The words you use to search may not be the word used in a database. Use a thesaurus to identify terms used in the database. Thesaurus searching is sometimes seamless; just click on a subject heading. Other times you must look up words in the thesaurus, then enter them into a search. NLM Gateway uses MeSH Terms (Medical Subject Headings) as a thesaurus. (Click on Term Finder). MeSH Terms are also used in PubMed and CINAHL.

Tabs, drop down menus and selection boxes - Are search/navigation tools within a database. Tabs are highlighted when available for use. When you start Academic Search Premier tabs and links are available for Keyword, Publications, Subject Terms, Cited References, Choose Databasese, Advanced Search, Visual Search, Search History/Alerts, Search History Alerts, Preferences. Drop down menus and selection boxes allow you to refine your search. 

Faceted Searching - list of items associated with the items you find that allows you to narrow by that facet when you do searching.  Do a search in Academic Search Premier. Notice the facets on the left-hand side of your search results.


Boolean operators are used in an analytical search to combine terms. You may need to type an operator in using all capital letters OR type in a symbol for an operator OR chose from a drop down menu. Boolean operators include:    

AND      health AND care 
Finds only the items with both the word health and care. Any item with health or care alone will be thrown out. Health and care do not have to be by each other. Use this strategy to focus a search.

OR        healthcare OR "health care"
Finds all items that have healthcare and all items that have "health care". Notice the quotation marks, common practice in databases is to use quotes around terms to search as a phrase. This only works in databases that support proximity searching. Use the OR search strategy to expand a search by combining terms that are similar.

NOT      healthcare NOT medicine 
Finds all items with healthcare but not medicine. Looks first for all items with healthcare if any item contains medicine that item will be thrown out. Use this strategy to narrow a search by eliminating unwanted items. Be aware you may eliminate items you want.

Proximity     health 1w care
Finds items that have health within one words of care. This strategy is used to focus a search and is preferred when searching full-text. If proximity is the default search of a database you may get zero results if the words you enter do not form a phrase. 

Truncation Marks     health*
Finds words starting with the letters h e a l t h: health, healthcare, healthy, healthful, healthfully. By placing a truncation symbol in place of a letter or character you can expand a search. Truncation marks may also be referred to as wildcards or stemming. 

Help files are available in most databases. Look for help, questions, info, information, ?, FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions), tips, hints, tutorials and/or instruction. For example click on help in Academic Search Premier.

Internet Address / Web Address / URL (Universal Resource Locator) is the letters and characters appearing in the address line of your browser. There are a number of concepts associated with the URL you should be aware of

Domain name address is the main part of an Internet address or URL that refers to the entity who publishes the web cite. Use a domain name address for a citation when the article content does not appear when you type in the address. For example use LexisNexis' domain name lexisnexis.com in a bibliographic citation for an article from this database.

Search Strings are the string of letters/characters that appear in the address line of your browser after you do a search. Use the entire search string in a citation for an article if the address is a DOI or a persistent URL. If it is not a DOI, use the domain name portion of the search string in your citation.

DOI (Digital Object Identifier), is the search string (address) for an Internet document that lets you return to the document if you type in the exact letters and characters in the address also referred to as a persistent URL. An article, journal or search that has a DOI can have this DOI placed in a web document, emailed to someone or added to a bibliographic citation. Be aware that an article from a subscription database may be inaccessible if you are at a location that does not allow access. Most databases will allow you to use a DOI to access an article, but it may violate license agreements and/or Copyright law if you copy and paste the entire article into a document to share with others. 

Relevancy Ranking is a way to rank search results. Each item is given a value based on where the terms from your search are found (title, author, subject, full-text). Generally the higher the ranking (percentage)  the more likely the item found matches your search terms. JSTOR lets you sort items by the highest scoring. 

SGML and XML opens  a separate search window when you click on a hypertext link in a web site. You can usually exit from these screens without losing the search window.

Stopwords are the words a database will ignore in a search. In some databases if you have a stopword in your search, you will get an error message or zero results. Common stopwords include the, a, an, for.


Created by Theresa Borchert.  Last update 08-31-11
Send comments or corrections to
borchert@cord.edu
Carl B. Ylvisaker Library, Concordia College, Moorhead,Minnesota